I did something very scary a few weeks ago. I sent three chapters of my upcoming book to total strangers. Yes, total strangers, as in, people I do not know, have never met, and, no, I don’t know if they are actually strange. But most are also writers, so you can take an educated guess on that one.
The task was simple–to request endorsements from people whose names readers will recognize. Then, when they see my book they will think, “Wow, this might be good since my favorite fantasy author says it is,” rather than, “Right. Another person I’ve never heard of who probably has the attention-getting talent of an armadillo. “(Actually, I would pay a lot of attention to an armadillo. So that may not be the best comparison.)
But it was scary. Why? Because these people are important. Busy. Big names. Writers and academic types who get asked to do this stuff all the time. And I. Am not. But deeper than that because–and here’s my confession to you–deep down, no matter how many books I write or talks I deliver, something inside still tells me every time, it’s not good. That when one of these writers or professors takes the time to look at my work, the truth will be out. It sucks. Who ever told me I could write? It is terrible drivel fit only for lining the stalls of llamas so they can spit at particularly awful passages. That is what they will say, and it will be so.
I know it isn’t so. I have plenty of evidence to the contrary in readers’ kind words and publishers’ apparent trust. So why do I still have this belief? Why do I get up to speak in front of crowds, which I love to do, and still wonder if I have anything of worth to say?
The surprise I’ve decided in the whirlwind last two months of multiple speaking engagements and trying to birth this book is–it doesn’t matter why. Why, a question I really love to ask, isn’t functional here. Because the real question is, what will I do with that feeling? And I’ve decided to do a couple things:
1–Make sure the work is the best it can be. Elementary, buy hey, I know a LOT of Christian writers who believe if they are writing what God tells them to write, it’s all good and should be adored. Apparently, God did not tell them to edit, rewrite, and edit some more. This is a tough business, and if I really believe God is in it? I want to make sure I’m offering him the best I have in me and representing him well.
2–Go for it anyway. Hard. Hard. Hard. Have I mentioned I do not like putting myself out there? I do not like talking about myself? I DO NOT LIKE letting anyone read anything I’ve written, which makes this writing gig kind of a challenge, seeing as that’s pretty much the entire point? (Since I do not harbor the illusion that I’m SO good someone will publish all my work posthumously and the world will applaud.) So, yeah, sending chapters out to writers and professors to potentially laugh at is right up there with all my nightmares of being naked in public. (Possibly a psychological connection.)
But–here’s the big but (one ‘t’). I did. And, possibly the two biggest names on my list, who I assumed would never even reply, wrote glowing endorsements. GLOWING. I am glowing just thinking about it. If I had not done it, jumped in, reached for what I never imagined I would receive, I never would have. End of story. Close your eyes, hum a tune to drown out the voices in your head, and DO IT.
3–Here’s the biggest surprise. I am choosing to embrace the feeling and fears of “not good enough.” I think, perhaps, God can use those feelings, is using those feelings, to make me more humbly dependent on him. When those feelings crop up? I know I need to run to him. I need to rely on him. I need to whisper, “Yes. It’s true. I am not good enough. But you are. And by your grace, your words will be spoken here today. Mine will indeed be drivel if you are not in it.”
Paradoxically, I know if I was not forced into that position of dependence and humility, I would have nothing to say. If I trusted only myself and my abilities? And oh, I could. I have. I’m good at it. It sometimes is not pretty. But when I must throw it all on him? He astounds and amazes. For one bright shining moment, I feel the relationship as it was always meant to be.
Embrace insecurity? Yes. I will. I may never enjoy it. But I need it.